OC Fair offers treats for the eyes and mind
OC Fair offers treats for the eyes and mind
Had enough of the OC Fair yet?
Next to the green, yellow-trimmed stand that unabashedly sells chocolate-covered bacon and water for $4 to $6 a bottle, the Visual Arts building at the fair once again showcases some of the best in local art and photography.
I can't think of another place in Orange County that serves up so much art at once, from such a variety of local artists – painters, photographers, wood workers, sculptors and mixed-media practitioners. In a way, with its diversity in age, geography and background, it's a microcosm of the county itself.
The visual arts staff – a friendly, hardworking group – received a record number of submissions this year, with 1100 in the fine art category, compared to 951 last year, and 475 accepted. In photography, 4,375 works were submitted, compared to 4,368 last year, with 934 accepted. That's only a 21.3 percent acceptance rate for photography. (The acceptance rate for fine art submissions was higher at 43.2 percent.)
Inside the Visual Arts building (which recently has been renamed "Los Alamitos," in honor of the Orange County city), photography is on the north side and fine art is on the south side. Positioned in the middle this year are projects by the Museum of Neon Art and Yarn Bombing Los Angeles, which features some Orange County members, including Amy Caterina Hill.
OK, let's cut to the chase. There's a lot of impressive work in the Visual Arts building, in fact, a lot of surprisingly good work. Garden Grove resident Ben Walker's painting of a tree with red, pink, white and black acrylic paint splashed across canvas knocked my socks off. I felt the same way about Alan Paz's "Sah Sen" – a bird made of printed circuit boards on birch plywood that was inspired by a Pacific Northwest Native American image.
As one might suspect, a fair amount of mediocre to bad work is mixed in such a smorgasbord of amateurs (and professionals). But somehow, I didn't notice the glaring standouts as much as in past years. Kudos to the judges.
The fair's art contest and exhibition is open now to all California residents. Entrants just have to bring and pick up their art to and from the fairgrounds. For me, other favorites and notables in the fine art category are: "The Rocker," an acrylic collage by Annette Rosenfeld of Costa Mesa; "Matador de Toros," a Day of the Dead-inspired acrylic by David Lozeau of Vista; and "We're Only Human," an oil painting by Nancy Johnson of Fullerton. The latter work – featuring a female dress form onstage with red curtains and a red balloon – is reminiscent of René Magritte. It's surreal in a good, clean, sparse way.
Steve Ellis' acrylic "Search for the Flying Elephant" looks just like the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. In this case, the animals have taken over the boat. Anaheim resident Sandra Nelipovich's "Seasons of the Year" is a beautiful batik on silk that reveals itself like a tapestry and tells a story about the passage of time.
GET YER PHOTOS AT THE FAIR
The biggest change in the visual arts presentation this year is the elimination of "professional" and "amateur" categories in photography. That's fine by me; it really is hard to tell the difference sometimes.
In contrast to years ago, the judges have almost completely eliminated the wedding and engagement photographs, which frankly speaking, is a good thing for an art show. Don't get me wrong – I know many people do this type of photography for a living and it's a wonderful documentation of a precious moment, but the wedding photo of the special couple is appropriate for the home and the living room, not for the public gallery near the concession stand that sells anything you want deep fried on a stick.
Highlights in photo are "Skinny Elephant," a black and white photo by Mike Steele of Aliso Viejo; "Princess & Bunny," a playful arrangement by Cassondra Wiley of Irvine; "Tunnel," a trippy piece by Eric Nelson of Irvine; "Hurst Fountain," a thoughtful image by David Miller of Anaheim that captures a castle reflection on a koi pond. By the way, did the photographer misspell Hearst?
Nelson Guzman's "Felix on the Mound" makes you wonder how the Lake Forest resident got that bird's eye shot of Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez on the mound at Safeco Park.
"Devil's Candy Bar" by Herman Schneider of Santa Ana looks truly looks like bars of broken chocolate in the Death Valley desert earth.
Another standout in photo is "Zach and Lauren" by Trent Blue of Huntington Beach. True, it's an engagement shot, but I like the combination of black and white photography with splashes of neon color. It's charming and innovative.
This year, I totally disagree with the judges' choice of Best of Show in the amateur fine art category. I realize that Maria Sandoval's "The View" is a nostalgic image supposedly capturing the fair in an earlier time, but many other artworks in the amateur category are stronger.
Yet, that's the thing about judging art – it's a subjective process. Judges have to haggle and arrive at a unanimous decision for Best of Show. I should know; I've been a judge at the fair before.
North of the Visual Arts building is the wood working exhibit, featuring finished pieces and live demonstrations. The Best of Show here is Anaheim Hills resident William Gourlay's classical guitar, called "Alma Llanera." But, with all the great stuff around it, is that really the best piece of wood working in the entire show?
Yeah, it's subjective. Personally, I like the "Yin-Yang Table" by Ralph Crowther of Mission Viejo and the heart-shaped jewelry cabinet by Dave Blackburn of Ventura. I thought it might even make a nice gift for a loved one. (Many works on view at the fair are available for purchase.) But spectators might gawk or squawk at the $9,000 price tag, and the more parsimonious may choose to usher their loved ones away from the piece before a heart-tugging fancy develops.
For sweetness that's not too pricey, the chocolate exhibition in the Exhibit Promenade, just outside the Visual Arts building, is enticing and educational. This show features a number of brown cases that contain chocolate-related history, photographs, advertising, products and videos. It's fascinating, well researched and nicely presented.
Irvine-based Xan Confections is strategically placed at the end of the chocolate exhibit, where one can buy an assortment of delectables for a reasonable price. Warning: No chocolates can be obtained for free there. It's against the fair's health regulations, according to Xan chief executive Susan Johnson.
Say, did you know they're selling deep-fried hamburgers at the fair this year?
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